Every year, the SFSS hosts a debate in which the candidates for each position get the opportunity to share their platform. Each candidate makes an opening statement, asks a question to their opponent, answers audience questions, and makes a closing statement.
The SFSS 2019 elections debate took place on Wednesday, March 13 at 1:00 p.m. in West Mall Atrium. Here is a debrief on each of the candidate’s platforms.
Faculty of Applied Sciences
Nick Chubb and Sheldon Bond were both present at Wednesday’s debate. Chubb started his opening statements noting, “despite what some may say about me–that I’m just a kid with a meme page– I actually have quite a bit of experience advocating for students.”
Chubb asked Bond if he has had enough experience at SFU to advocate for students, as Bond is currently in his second semester at SFU. Bond responded that he has been involved with the CSSS, has attended engineering meetings, and has reached out to WIX, SSSS, and MSESS.
Bond questioned Chubb on one aspect of his platform, asking “why do you think parking is the biggest issue facing applied science students?” Chubb responded that parking wasn’t necessarily the most pressing issue, and noted that he also wanted to promote the gondola and tuition freeze.
Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
Simran Bining and Jennifer Chou are both running for this position, however Chou was unable to make it to the debate.
“My goal for this term is to increase student engagement with clubs and DSUs, greater access to physical and mental health resources, as well as improve communication between the SFSS and students.”
Faculty of business
Willson Leong and Abhishek Parmer were both present at the debate. Andrew Wong was not able to make it.
Leong explained that he has gained “a lot of valuable insight on the problems here with the SFSS and the general student population” due to his involvement in MISA and enactus.
“My goal is to bring Beedie closer to other faculties around and build better connections with the other reps,” said Parmer. He also hopes to plan events with other faculties, such as economics and computing science.
Faculty of communication representatives
Silke Billings was the only FCAT candidate present at the debate as Fiona Li was unable to make the debate.
An audience member asked “how can you use your skills in communication to help the SFSS improve its communication?” Billings responded that there is a lack of communication between departments, and she would like to improve this through meetings.
Faculty of education representatives
Emerly Liu was present at the debate as the only candidate running for education representative. In her opening statement, Liu explained that she is the current president of the Education Student Association, and that she wants “to help improve the social and academic well being of all undergrads.”
A main issue she addressed is that the faculty of education has made adjustments to their Professional Development Program requirements and hasn’t communicated this well with undergrads, which she hopes to improve through student engagement.
Faculty of environment representatives
Julian Loutsik and Lex Grandan were both present at the debate.
Loutsik’s mentioned that he has been shadowing the current environment rep over the past few months, during which he has learned a lot about the position. Grandan noted that he is an active member of both the Bachelor of Environment Student Union (BESU) and the Environmental Science Student Union (EVSCSU), and that he is “hoping to implement environmental education engagement and advocacy.”
Grandan’s question to Loutsik was “you plan on having a close relation to departmental student unions that you claim on both The Peak questions and your platform, however myself and many EVSCSU members have never seen you at any of our weekly meetings. Are you aware of when and where they are?” Loutsik responded that “instead of attending these meetings I have taken the route of being close with the current faculty of environment representative, as I believe it sets me up better.”
Faculty of health sciences representative
Both of the health science candidates, Osob Mohammed and Roopan Garcha, were present at the debate.
Mohammed mentioned that she hopes to advocate to supply health products (such as menstrual products and contraceptives) in bathrooms around campus, and supports Tuition Freeze Now.
Garcha said “as a health sciences representative I hope to create a welcoming and reassuring atmosphere for students where they can openly communicate their concerns without any hesitation.”
Faculty of science representatives
Jason Spence, Kasey Stirling, and Simran Uppal, were all present at the debate.
Spence demonstrated involvement in his faculty, as he is involved with the Biology Student Union, as well as the Science Undergraduate Society (SUS). “I have listened to the requests and suggestions and complaints about the SFSS and I am prepared and I plan to take those right to the university level,” he explained.
Stirling’s mentioned that she wanted to improve mental health care for science students. In her closing statement she encouraged the audience to “vote for someone who will bring new ideas to SFU science. It’s quite stagnant at the moment.”
Simran Uppal’s three main points include increased science opportunities, development of the surrey science union, and increased campus wide events.” She also noted, “I would like all students at all campuses to be provided with science opportunities and be aware of them.”
Of the at-large representatives, Maneet Aujla and Stephanie Chiakwelu were both present at the debate. Rayhaan Khan was unable to make it.
Chiakwelu explained that her main concerns include “a sense of community at our school, tuition freeze, job placements for graduating students, open-source textbooks to get rid of the expensive textbooks sold to students, and making the bursary and scholarship programs more accessible to low income students.”
Aujla mentioned that she wants “to create and build a sense of community amongst everyone here.” She is a member of the active bystander network and additionally has been involved on the SFSS events committee.
They both agreed that the SFSS has faced a tough year, and is not currently in good standing.
Tawanda Nigel Chitapi is the only student running for vice-president finance this year.
When asked by the IEC if he would choose to prioritize bursary funding or club funding, Chitapi responded that he would prioritize funding clubs, stating that “we can only foster community and engagement through clubs and student unions.”
In his closing statement, he remarked that “we just need to change the narrative of the student society [ . . . ] It’s a good feeling to be running alone, but [it’s bad optics on the society], people should not be refraining from running for these positions because of fear of dirty politics.”
VP Student Services
All three candidates for vice-president student services, Christina Loutsik, Simran Randhawa, and Prince Cheema were present at the debate.
Randhawa asked Cheema, “On your platform, you talk about a community, and considering the SFSS has no sexual violence prevention policy and you never mentioned it and I have honestly never seen you work on it, how do you plan on building a community that is safe?” Cheema responded that he does in fact mention sexual violence on his platform. He noted that SFU has various services and that the problem is communicating the existence of these student services to the student body. To this, Randhawa rebutted that his response did not answer her question.
Samer Rihani, audience member and SFSS’s current acting president, asked what the candidates think about the current provision of the health and dental plan, to which all of the responses mentioned negotiating a more affordable plan.
An audience member inquired about what the candidates would do to create a long-awaited sexual violence policy for the SFSS. To applause, Randhawa said that “this is personal to me. Most days I am more victim than I am a survivor. In fact, just last Saturday when I got awarded as the SFSS Women of the Year from FASS, one of the board members said to me that he would F my life up [ . . . ] I am here to stand for the people who have been victimized.”
VP Student Life
Balqees Jama was the only vice-president student life candidate present at Wednesday’s debate. In her opening statement, she noted that “my goal this year is to rebuild that faith that has been damaged over the years.”
The main points that she made included getting a headstart on planning a Fall Kickoff, planning consultations with different types of student groups, and increasing core funding for clubs and student unions.
Although there were some distractions from an audience member during her debate, Jama remained calm and was able to successfully answer all the questions.
VP External Relations
Both the candidates for vice-president external relations, Ali Versi and Jasdeep Gill, were present at Wednesday’s debate.
“In your platform last year, you pledged to increase the indigenization of our campus as an issue that is close to the hearts of many,” Versi asked Gill. “My question to you, therefore, is why should the students trust you again when you acted in complete opposition to your campaign promise by evicting the FNSA and denying them space in the student union building?”
To this, Gill responded that the FNSA does currently have a space in the student union building, and “a lot of my year has been learning and meeting with the FNSA every month.”
“I think it’s hard for students to put their faith in a candidate who does not fulfill their campaign promises again,” rebutted Versi.
In closing statements, Versi expressed his intent to advocate for a tuition freeze as well as his support for an SFU gondola.
VP University Relations
Russell Dunsford and Shina Kaur were both present at the debate. Harman Batish, who is also running for the position, was not present.
Kaur explained that the main points of her platform include encouraging professors to use open-source textbooks as well as subsidizing books. Dunsford explained that he is working with a student group to advocate for banning plastic water bottles on campus, as well as to work with safety and risk services to improve lighting on campus.
They both agreed that SFU should be more receptive to the needs of students.
Giovanni HoSang, Amrita Mohar, and Kia Mirsalehi were all present for the debate.
Mirsalehi explained that his platform is based on giving the power back to students and student clubs, as well as implementing by-law reform to set standards on how board members can act. He described himself as honest and straightforward, and emphasized the importance of not making decisions himself, but consulting board members and the SFU student body. Mirsalehi noted that he will continue to fight for by-law reforms even if he doesn’t get elected.
HoSang explained that his campaign focuses on a collaborative process, not only with all of the SFSS board members, but with the entire student body. He emphasized the importance of transparency, advocating for students, and restructuring the SFSS’s decision-making process. In particular, he wants to get rid of the current model where all decisions go directly to the Executive Director. “I think we can build a very positive relationship with the Executive Director by the Executive Director recognizing that students voices are supposed to be heard, and the last Executive Director didn’t do that,” said HoSang.
Mohar wants to support and facilitate whatever projects and initiatives the board members need. In terms of sexual harassment, she noted “I don’t want any board member to experience what I went through.” Mohar said if she doesn’t win she will sign up for various committees and still holds a seat on senate.
They all expressed that the SFSS is currently lacking in a sexual harassment policy, and importance of creating an SFSS sexual harassment policy. Additionally, they all expressed the importance of developing a positive relationship with the executive director. Furthermore, they all agreed that the SFSS should do more to create opportunities and services for students with disabilities through better consultation and involvement.
In terms of the ongoing struggle for certain student groups to get space in the SUB, they were divided. Hosang explained that as there are six Rotunda community groups and seven available spaces, they should be allocated accordingly. Mohar explained that the shared-space model is supposed to build community and spread awareness of all the clubs and groups on campus, however, she would be open to negotiation as a president. Instead of answering the question directly, Mirsalehi said “we should take it to the students and offer a referendum question,” a motion which he previously brought to the board.